It was the defection of Republicans, led by chairman Buck McKeon of the Armed Services Committee, that shattered the pro-sequester majority. Republican members of the Appropriations Committee also dissented for turf reasons. The sequester intruded on their role in shaping the budget. The result: The sequester was suddenly vulnerable.
Only under these circumstances does the budget accord fashioned by House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan and his Senate counterpart, Democrat Patty Murray, become minimally acceptable. It provides $63 billion in sequester relief in 2014 and 2015. It passed the House on December 12, 332 to 94.
Ryan, to his credit, played a weak hand as best he could. The agreement restores $23 billion in defense spending next year and doesn’t include a tax increase. Democrats refused to consider any trims, much less meaningful reforms, in Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid. And they rejected the bold plan in Ryan’s House budget to raise revenues through opening federal lands and offshore areas to energy development.
The sequester isn’t dead. In the fight to restrain government spending it’s a wounded warrior. It’s supposed to resume its menu of automatic cuts in 2015, but don’t hold your breath. Now that its caps have been breached once, they’re bound to be tossed aside again. And the greatest tool for curbing the growth of government in the lifetime of most Americans will be lost.
Thanks to the Republicans!
Don’t forget it.